Health Uncategorized

Addiction Stigma

The following was written by Mart Meyer, Recovery Coach at PRC Recovery Centre, Sabie.

Addict! Such a dirty word, but is it? If we speak about addicts we often think junkie, criminal, degenerate, but addicts are also sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.

SACENDU recently published their 46th report on monitoring alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse treatment admissions in South Africa. The report indicated that admissions to treatment facilities have increased with nearly 20% of which female admissions account for 20% of persons admitted to treatment. The SACENDU report provides an essential view of addiction treatment whereby 25% of admissions were indeed employed and a further 24% being pupils or students at secondary and tertiary levels. The majority of 90% of people admitted to treatment having a secondary or tertiary education.

The evidence provides that addiction does not discriminate and that the stigma that haunts addiction does discourage people to seek professional help, making the process of identification, admission and acceptance so much more difficult.

Is something a problem if everyone does it?

How have the effects of alcohol and more extensive substance abuse affect us, and our society? A culture we created that infiltrated much of our existence as a result of the actions of men. Women are endangered and our children grow up in this culture of acceptable behaviour.

Rightly as our President, Cyril Ramaphosa said on his National Address on 17 June 2020. “Of course, it is not alcohol that rapes or kills a woman or a child. Rather, it is the actions of violent men.”

In the last article we dispelled the myth that addiction is a moral failing but rather a disease. This disassociation created through the stigma makes it difficult whereas the mental health classifications fit, but more often the spiritual problem is then treated with a chemical solution and there is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem.

As a dual-diagnosis addiction rehabilitation centre, we do not discourage chemical balancing. Rather recommending it given thorough professional intervention and screening that takes the far-reaching behaviours and processes of the disease of addiction beyond the physical abuse and dependence on substances into consideration.

The question of addiction

Anonymous associations such as Alcoholics Anonymous who found the 12 step program of recovery have transversed into fellowships who address Gambling, Gaming, Depression, Eating, Sex and Love, and many more behavioural and process addictions.

The question of addiction is severity, cross-addiction, and ignorance. These are all factors as the many that influence the identification of an addiction disorder in terms of its biological, environmental and developmental impact. The short-term and long-term effects of substance abuse have led to many societal problems including underage drinking, binge drinking, and substance depression.

Underage drinking

Underage drinking has drastically increased estimating that 50% of South African teens drink alcohol. Teens who drink are far more likely to try illegal drugs and the misguidance of our youth triples the likelihood of involvement in violent crimes.

Children who grow up in homes where excessive or binge drinking occur are far more susceptible to adopt the same culture in their adult lives. Again severity, behaviour and ignorance play a vital role.

Binge drinking

Binge drinking, defined as 5 or more drinks on one occasion, remains problematic. See if you recognise yourself often making any of these excuses, “I haven’t got work tomorrow, I’m out with my mates, and I’ve just been paid.”

Binge drinking can affect your mood and your memory and, in the longer term, can lead to serious mental health problems. Binge drinking can lead to anti-social and aggressive behaviour which could have detrimental impacts on relations with loved ones and friends.

Keep track of and limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Drink more slowly and try to alternate each drink with a non-alcoholic drink and food. Always ensure that you are with people you know and make sure that you have a plan to get home safely.

Substance depression

If you drink heavily and regularly you’re likely to develop some symptoms of depression. Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps to regulate your mood. Drinking heavily can also affect your relationships with your partner, family and friends. It can impact on your performance at work. These issues can also contribute to depression. If you drink to try and improve your mood or mask your depression, you may be starting a vicious spiral into depression.

Substance depression has become a recurring theme among female alcoholism earning itself the #WineMom title. “We joke about using wine to cope with all the whine. But what if the thing that makes everything better poses serious health risks? Is it still funny?”

The combination of more women drinking and women more impacted by alcohol has created a health epidemic of women and alcoholism. Women can suffer from several unique alcohol-related health risks that do not impact their male counterparts with female alcoholism often closely associated with depression and cross-addiction where prescription and over-the-counter medication are often substituted to help with the depression while a deeper dependence and abuse concern develops.

It’s time to tackle your problem if…

  1. You’re taking two bottles of wine to the party in case you run out.
  2. The amount of wine in your weekly shop is increasing.
  3. You’re starting to finish off an evening of drinking with a nightcap.
  4. You buy bigger glasses.
  5. You’re drinking more than the low-risk guidelines.

The vicious cycle

And so, the vicious cycle of societal acceptable drinking and abuse continues. Men affected by the effects of binge drinking turn to women and children in often violent resolve where women turn to a substance substitution in the comfort of dealing with the hopelessness, despair, depression and anxiety of the pressures of men and children and our children grow up in a society of rebellion where the “cool factor” of peer pressure and fitting in, the demands of young adulthood in a society of insecurity, broken homes, unemployment, future uncertainty might drive them to hit the bottle and drown their sorrows. It locks in the cycle of events in underage drinking, binge drinking and substance depression that leaves us to consume alcohol as a form of escapism.

It might be surprising to hear that you don’t always have to be drinking in the extreme to become dependent on alcohol. Anyone who drinks regularly will have a degree of alcohol dependency. At the other end of the spectrum however, you have people for whom alcohol is more important than their jobs, families and just about everything else including their lives.

Addiction is a family disease. One person may use, but the whole family suffers. Foster a home environment in which your loved ones feel like they can talk to you about things without judgement or punishment. If they feel supported and loved, they will turn to you instead of a bottle of booze for help.

A culture of acceptance

12 step programs of recovery start with Step 1, “we admitted that we are powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.” Step 1 examines all the elements of our reckless behaviour to help us admit and accept that we are addicted.

More often than not it is most difficult for us to admit and accept that we are addicts and Step 1 states, we had to fully concede to ourselves that we are addicted and only then can the journey of recovery start.

A message of hope, a promise of freedom

Most anonymous associations either start or end their meetings with the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant us the serenity, to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Changing social norms are making things more acceptable. Alcoholism and addiction is an increasing problem. Isn’t it time to ask for the courage to change the things we cannot accept and admit that we have a problem and need help.

I you need additional help, you can reach out to the following:

  • PRC Recovery Centre: 081 246 7452,
  • Alcoholics Anonymous: 0861 435 722,
  • Al-Anon: 0861 252 666,


Why mommy drinks: The scary truth about #WineMom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *